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The Effects of Music Tempo on Memory Performance Using Maintenance Rehearsal and Imagery

The Effects of Music Tempo on Memory Performance Using Maintenance Rehearsal and Imagery

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Published by Sunway University
Written by Chie Qiu Ting & Kartpagam K. Karthigeyan

Published in Sunway University College Academic Journal Vol. 6
Written by Chie Qiu Ting & Kartpagam K. Karthigeyan

Published in Sunway University College Academic Journal Vol. 6

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Sunway University on Mar 30, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Sunway University CollegeNo. 5, Jalan Universiti, Bandar Sunway46150 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul EhsanTel: +6016 6584753Fax: +60(3)56358633kqtchie@gmail.com
Sunway University College
The aim of the study was to examine the effect of music tempo on memory performance when different learningstrategies, namely, maintenance rehearsal and imagery are used. A mixed model design experiment wasconducted on a total of 120 (37 male and 83 female) participants. Participants were presented two word listsunder three music tempo conditions (slow – 60 bpm, optimum – 120 bpm, fast – 165 bpm) and a controlcondition, using either maintenance rehearsal or imagery in sequential order. A counting task was thenintroduced to induce delayed recall before being tested using free recall. This study found that participants werenot affected by the order in which rehearsal or imagery was used; participants scored significantly higher usingimagery in comparison to maintenance rehearsal in all four music conditions; and participants achieved thehighest memory performance in the 120 bpm in comparison to the control condition, 60 bpm and the 165 bpmconditions. A research question regarding the interaction between music tempos and learning strategies was alsoinvestigated. Under within-subject conditions, no significant effect was found between music tempos andlearning strategies, which means that the effect of a particular music tempo on a single participant was constantand the same level of arousal would be effected during Trial 1r (Rehearsal) and Trial 2i (Imagery).Keywords: Music tempo, memory performance, maintenance rehearsal, imagery
Background music is becoming an increasingly common feature in daily life as it is readilyavailable through radio, recordings, television and videos. Many people go through dailyactivities such as working, studying, driving, shopping and relaxing to the accompanimentof music. Music, in general, plays a powerful social role in assisting communication(O’Donnell et al., 1999), influencing cognitive functioning (Rauscher, Shaw & Ky, 1993),stimulating deep emotions (Juslin & Sloboda), and influencing the establishment andmaintenance of social groups (Hargreaves & North, 1997).Hallam (2001) conducted research on the physiological and psychological effects of music and concluded that music lies on a continuum from highly stimulating andinvigorating to soothing or calming. Additionally, Knight and Rickard (2001) found that
Sunway Academic Journal 6 
115when participants were faced with a cognitive stressor, listening to classical musicsignificantly reduced subjective anxiety, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, aswell as salivary immunoglobulin A (sIgA) levels, which is a component of the immunesystems "first-line of defence" against pathogenic viruses and bacteria.In a learning context, Giles (1991) stated that appropriate background music is onewhich enables students to generally function better, makes them less stressed, more relaxed,happier and more productive. Effective music was one that improved children’sperformance in tasks, on condition that it did not overly excite them. The idea of combiningmusic and learning has been explored for quite some time. In fact, early researchers such asHall (1952, as cited in Hallam & Price, 1997) found that performance of 58 % of the 245eighth and ninth graders on the Nelson Silent Reading Tests was significantly improvedwhen background music was played. This study also found that there were ‘settling downperiods' at the beginning of the morning and afternoon sessions and a mid-afternoon fatigueperiod when music was of greatest assistance. Hall (1952, as cited in Hallam & Price, 1997)also suggested that background music aided the students by increasing accuracy and thosestudents who were 'below average in intelligence and achievement' benefited more from thepresence of background music than those who were ‘above average’. It could be suggestedthat this is the case because music plays the role as an aid to concentration among childrenwho need it.Later Etaugh and Ptasnik (1982) investigated the effect of music on different types of tasks and found that music had positive effects on literacy tasks such as comprehension.Participants who seldom studied with background music, showed better comprehension in alaboratory study when they learned in silence, while those who frequently studied withmusic performed better when in the presence of music (Etaugh & Ptasnik, 1982).Researchers also attempted to describe the effect of Mozart’s classical music on cognitivefunctioning through spatial reasoning tasks. Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky (1993) called thisinfluence “the Mozart effect”, and defined it as the improved performance on spatialreasoning tasks while listening to Mozart’s classical music. College students were found toperform significantly better in the paper folding and cutting task of the Stanford-Binet Scaleof Intelligence while listening to Mozart as compared to listening to a relaxation tape orsilence (Rauscher, Shaw & Ky, 1993).Kiger (1989) studied the effect of music on literacy tasks by instructing 54 high-schoolstudents to read a passage of literature in silence, or with low or high `information-load'music based on the criteria of loudness, variety, complexity and tonal range. It was foundthat reading comprehension scores were significantly higher in the low information-loadcondition than in either silence or the high information-load condition (Kiger, 1989). Fromthis study, it can be concluded that slow, soft and repetitive low-information music providesoptimally arousing conditions for learning literacy tasks.Based on the research quoted above, it can be concluded that music with specificqualities does have an effect on task performance. In this study, the variable music tempowas introduced in addition to learning strategies (maintenance rehearsal and imagery) asfactors that could influence memory performance. Coleman (2001) defined maintenancerehearsal as the simple repetition (without elaboration) of items or information that need tobe remembered in order to prevent them fading from short-term memory. On the other hand,Goldstein (2008) defined imagery as the recreation of a mental image in the absence of thephysical stimuli. In addition, a new element was introduced in the study which was to
examine the combined effects of music tempo and learning strategies on memoryperformance. Lavy (2001) defined music tempo as the speed at which music is played,usually measured in beats per minute (bpm). The idea to introduce music tempo into thismemory study was derived from the theoretical basis stated below.
The theoretical basis of the effect of music on arousal and how it subsequently influencesmemory performance was explained by Kalat (1986) using the Yerkes-Dodson law, whichholds that high arousal produces the best performance when one is attempting a simple task,while medium arousal produces the best performance when one is attempting a difficulttask. Leung and Fung (2005) stated that there are many stimuli that could increase arousalsuch as light, temperature, noise, decoration, space management and background music.Hallam, Price and Katsarou (2002), found that background music was able to increase thearousal level of a person because it influences mood. However, increased arousal levels willincrease performance up to an optimal level but underarousal and overarousal may causedeterioration of performance (Hallam, Price & Katsarou, 2002). The Yerkes-Dodson Law isessential to this study as different music tempos used could create different levels of arousal.Based on this theoretical basis, the optimum music tempo for learning is investigated andthe validity of the Yerkes-Dodson Law is analysed.
 This section reviews research involving comparisons between different learning strategiesand the combined effects of background music and learning strategies. The current studyinvestigates comparisons of memory performance when maintenance rehearsal and imagerywere employed.
Among the past research into memory performance between maintenancerehearsal and imagery techniques was the study by Bower and Winzenz (1970), whereparticipants were presented a list of 15 pairs of nouns such as boat and tree. One group wastold to silently repeat the pairs as they were presented, while another group formed mentalpictures of the two items interacting. Participants were tested using cued recall and it wasfound that participants who created images remembered more than twice as many pairs asthose who only repeated (Bower & Winzenz, 1970). From this study, it can be concludedthat an imagery learning strategy led to better memory performance in comparison to amaintenance rehearsal strategy.
Craik and Tulving (1975) explained in a further researchthat participants had superior memory when using imagery because meaningful connectionswere made between items.Past research has also looked into the combined effects of music and imagery onmemory performance although the literature is limited. Stein, Hardy and Totten (1982)performed a test on postgraduate students to see if music (Handel's Water Music) andimagery could help in memorising a list of vocabulary words. Participants were divided intothree groups: first group (music and imagery), second group (music and read only) and thirdgroup (read only). Each group was given a pretest, posttest, and a test one week later in thepresence of music and results showed that groups using music and imagery; and music and

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